The world doesn’t need another time management system.
Yes, we want to get more of our top priorities done, in less of the time, with less of the stress. And we want to do it in this world of cognitive overload.
But is that “Time Management”? Or simply: “Me Management”?
Honestly, I move around on the debate of whether we can or cannot manage time. But I prefer to sidestep that discussion altogether and go straight for what I KNOW I can manage: My energy and flow. My focus and attention. My thinking and perspective.
So let’s start with this: I don’t need another time management system. I need a shift in perspective to get to what’s beneath my time management approach.
Here are 5 thoughts to inspire a different view, reduce the overwhelm, and leave you feeling good whilst getting things done.
Is my thinking in this moment?
How much of your thinking is spent on the past, versus thinking about the future, versus thinking about the present?
Notice where you’re directing your thinking. Be honest with yourself. And then consider what that’s doing for your productivity. Is enough of your attention on the present?
Thinking about the future includes goals and solutions and the vision. All empowering themes. But too much time spent thinking about the future can lead to overwhelm. Everything I still need to do. How little time is left in which to do it.
Thinking about the past might include celebration of key achievements and learning from previous challenges. Useful thinking. But dwelling on the past can lead to anxiety and worry. It went wrong before. And here are all the times it similarly went wrong.
First things first. Keep your thinking in this present moment.
Do I have a focus problem?
Here’s the picture: you’re at work, suitcase packed for this afternoon’s flight to Geneva and the big board meeting tomorrow. At lunchtime, you’re on your way out the door to catch your taxi to the airport. And a colleague stops you in the corridor: “can I just grab 5 minutes of your time?” And of course you say: No.
You’re 1000% (yes, one thousand) percent focused on the task at hand. Your objective.
So here’s the question for all those other times when distractions and “drift” take us off-course: do I have a time management problem? Or a focus and priority problem?
Get 1000% committed to your current objective.
Now? Or not now?
One powerful way to keep time management simple but effective is to ask the question: now, or not now?
- Now. In which case: do it. Do all of it. And get it done.
- Not now. In which case: trash it. Or schedule it.
A “not now” task needs to go on the calendar. Make time for it. And then you can let that task go and free-up your mind for the only task that matters – the task at hand.
Keep it simple. Ask: “now, or not now?” And then get it in the calendar.
Where’s the pleasure? Where’s the pain?
We don’t procrastinate because we’re lazy. We procrastinate because we associate pain with doing the task, and pleasure with avoiding it.
Of course, that’s short-term thinking at work. Because the real pain comes from the incomplete task. The niggling thought that it’s still outstanding and waiting to be done. And that recurring thought is blocking other thinking – and other tasks!
So the plan is this: redistribute. Associate with the pain of avoiding the task. And connect with the pleasure by thinking how good it’ll feel to get it done!
Notice that your Energy comes from doing the task, not avoiding it.
Where’s my energy?
We can’t create more time. But we can look after our energy.
When I’m energised, my focus and attention is right where I need it to be. My creativity and artistry come to the fore. And no task is ever boring or without benefit.
So: Get enough sleep. Hydrate. Eat well. Exercise. Have a morning routine. Know your flow times. Schedule “unthinking” breaks. Be mindful. Meditate. Get outside. Connect with people.
Let time do its thing. Make your focus: the energy you bring.
Shifting the thinking on time management
I started this article saying we don’t need another time management system. And we don’t. we’ve got plenty of tools and tips for that side of things already. And we’ve all got our favourite systems in place already. (If you think you don’t, take a closer look. There’s a system there somewhere!)
So what are we saying if we have (what-we’ll-call-for-now) a “time management problem”?
We’re saying look for what’s beneath the “time management problem”. Look at your purpose. Your objective. Your pleasure/pain distribution. Your energy. Your thinking. Your focus. And you’ll find the shift in thinking that will get those other time management systems working beautifully for you.